By Tony Kayyod
Now is the time to take a hard look to eliminate non-value-added work to your workflow processes. For over forty years I have helped all kinds of organizations do just that by improving productivity and profitability.
Think of it in terms of your personal productivity. Imagine you are sitting at home, and you know you need gas for your car. Naturally, you don’t want to leave from home to go fuel up your car and then return home. That is a waste of time and energy. Streamlining the process would be to stop at the gas station on the way home from somewhere else.
The gas station metaphor is about eliminating a wasted trip. But in the business world, wasteful workflow processes are much less visible than that trip to the gas station. Historically, many businesses have learned to accept the non-value-added work throughout the enterprise. That is a gross miscalculation.
When you calculate the cost of your product or service, it does not make sense to pay for items or effort the customer does not value. When you streamline, you identify the process steps that the customer doesn’t see value from. After you identify and map the process, the question is how can I eliminate these unnecessary steps? That’s the power and promise of streamlining.
Take A Lesson From Amazon, The King Of Streamlining
For example, Amazon did that to brick-and-mortar retail stores. Amazon just reasoned that the physical coming to a retail store and the driving away with merchandise was not a value add for most customers.
Amazon started with books, but the aim was always to be the giant of all retailing. Amazon is right for millions of people. Sure, some people still want to go and touch the product in the store to buy. But if you know what you want, it’s easier to buy it online from Amazon. Free shipping with Amazon Prime made the price competitive. So, that’s the streamlining and the Internet allowed Amazon to do it.
According to an opinion piece in The New York Times, Amazon is different than most businesses. Here is an excerpt from the article “The Secret of Amazon’s Success” that ran November 19, 2018 by economist William Lazonick, president of the Academic-Industry Research Network:
What is it that makes Amazon different from other large companies? Certainly, the sheer range of the products it sells and its market power are unmatched in corporate America…But there is another difference that is much less appreciated yet has been more significant in shaping its path: Amazon’s resource-allocation strategy — in particular, how it chooses to use the profits that it earns. It is one of very few large American corporations that is choosing to retain its profits and reinvest… Instead of squandering its profits on buybacks, Amazon has been reinvesting them in its business and its employees. That strategy is reflected in spending on research and development, where Amazon is far and away the world leader.
What could you do to invest in streamlining your workflow to simplify or eliminate unnecessary work-related tasks to improve the efficiency of your processes for what you make or what service you offer? To obtain a return on investment, of course you need to invest. Streamlining processes will require the usage of modernizing techniques, technology, and consideration of other possible approaches.
Get Rid Of Those Constraints
For decades I have consulted in constraint management. This is all about finding and exploiting the constraints. How do you release more of what customer values in a process? How do you allow that value to come out?
Processes and workflows are similar, but they are not the same. A process is a set of repeatable activities that need to be continued to complete a specific goal that an organization has set. Workflow is series of repeatable activities that need to be continued to complete a specific task.
In the past they called improving processes and workflows lean manufacturing, which only concentrated on manufacturing. It was all about removing the bottlenecks in manufacturing that didn’t always allow more enterprise-wide throughput. This was all about cutting the fat and eliminating the waste in manufacturing and not in the support functions.
Principles from lean manufacturing have been applied to the world of services too.
When I worked at General Motors, I was the chief engineer of electronic sensors and actuators. In that position, I worked with thousands of people to improve our lean manufacturing. After leaving GM I have worked with many businesses to streamline because the benefits are huge.
The Benefits Of Streamlining Processes & Workflows
Streamlining gives you the three mores; more productivity, time efficiency, and profitability. Here is how:
More productivity. Employees are more able to reduce waste of motions & to focus more on the quality of what they are producing when unnecessary tasks are reduced. Employees become more productive when workflow processes are streamlined. Employees benefit when they have clear measurements and expectations.
More time efficiency. Streamlining results in better time management. Employees can concentrate on the more important value-added tasks. Data entry and processing can be done automatically. Using automation and technology to deal with the mundane tasks helps humans focus on what they are best at, which is problem solving. No one likes to waste time and energy on the routine.
More profitability. Streamlining give you more funds to allocate elsewhere or drop to the bottom line. Streamlining can decrease the amount of paper your workplace uses. This will likely save your business money so you can allocate funds elsewhere. Ultimately more sellable throughput doesn’t require as much resources since they are freed up.
Training And Onboarding
Here is an important team building question: Have you included a work-style assessment as part of your hiring process? Do you have a tool to help you understand somebody’s personality and how that fits in with the team? Do you have a library of interview questions available to help understand how somebody will thrive in your hybrid work environment?
Once you find that right candidate, does your onboarding process provide specific job training for a new hire?
Streamlining is a journey, not just a onetime process. Your workflow processes might be improved by technology, but you are only as good as the team working the process.
Onboarding is the first opportunity to get the right soft skill sets in embedded in the various positions. Depending on the scope of job roles and responsibilities, there are different skill sets needed. That might mean skills training for everything from say, leadership development, all the way to something basic, such as time management and effective communication.
Skills training across a wide spectrum is an important part of my work. Often employees that come into clients don’t come equipped with the right skill sets. I have found the better the skill sets, the better the opportunity is for them to be more productive. In addition, the soft skill training opportunities help retain talented employees by preparing them for more responsibility & career growth.
You can improve skill sets through either video conference training, prerecorded training, or in-person training. The length of time varies as does the depth of the subject matter varies.
One of the hot training topics today is global sourcing. Yes. This is mainly because of the supply chain constraints that are so much in the news. Engineers and/or buyers at many companies don’t know how to find and develop new “global” sources. This is a skill that can be taught to improve throughput.
Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022
Tony Kayyod is a senior Lighthouse consultant specializing in streamlining workflow processes with over 35 years of combined industry and leadership experience in customer-driven turnkey projects. Formerly, Tony was an automotive industry executive responsible for directing global footprint in manufacturing, engineering, supply chain and warehousing, as well as Chief Engineer for Sensors and Actuators at General Motors and Delphi Automotive. Tony holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and an MBA from Jacksonville State University. For more information, please reach out to Dana Borowka, MA at (310) 453-6556, ext. 403 or email@example.com.
If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, firstname.lastname@example.org & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.